Part 3 of a 3-part Series
Out of respect for everyone who has been impacted by Hurricane Harvey & Hurricane Irma, this post will dispense with my usual “fire-dogisms.”
As teachers, educators and administrators across the country welcome students to a new academic year, we want to help ensure your child starts 2017-2018 off right. School safety is of paramount importance since children spend more hours at school than anywhere besides their own homes. Facing myriad obstacles, such as transportation challenges, cyber bullying and peer pressure, and handling emergencies and disasters, students need to proactively take steps to #BeSafe.
The first entry of our three-part series about back-to-school safety focused on how to keep your child safe on the way to and from school. The second blog post focused on how to be safe while at school, relative to bullying. In the final post, we will cover the topic of how to be safe at school before, during and after emergencies or disasters.
In an ironic twist, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma severely impacted the Gulf Coast, Florida and parts of the Caribbean during National Preparedness Month (NPM), whose theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” Projected to be the most expensive natural disasters of all time, the two storms are projected to cause losses in excess of $290 billion.
While some natural disasters are predictable, giving schools leeway to cancel classes and residents ample warning to evacuate, others can happen unexpectedly or rapidly change, suddenly putting students in danger. The first step to take in preparing for emergencies is to assess the types of natural or man-made disaster risks most likely to occur in your region:
- Extreme heat
- Hurricanes and tornadoes
- Landslides and debris flow
- Thunderstorms and lightning
- Wildfires or structural fires
- Winter storms and extreme cold
The sudden and unexpected nature of disasters means that you could be away from your child during a disaster. Without proper planning, this is a frightening prospect. Nevertheless, while there’s no substitute for being with your children when a disaster strikes, there are ways to lessen associated fears of what may happen if an emergency occurs while your student is at school:
- Familiarize yourself with your district’s emergency preparedness plans. In fact, get involved in the planning process so you have input about campus procedures.
- Find out your community’s risk and response plans. Involve your student. Kids like being included in the process, for their own safety and sense of empowerment.
- Hold a meeting to discuss your family’s communications plan.
- For younger students, roleplay what to do during a disaster.
- After you’ve learned about the school’s and community’s emergency response plans, talk to your child about them, reminding your student about the importance of actively listening to teachers and administrators during emergencies.
- Use age-appropriate preparedness materials to explain emergency procedures to your child. These could include engaging activities and easy action steps that your students will find both fun, informative and effective.
- Work together to build an emergency kit. For college-aged students, as you plan for their practical needs during their months away from home, be sure to include some items that will come in handy in an emergency in addition to climate-appropriate clothing, dorm supplies, medications and toiletries. Whether it’s as simple as a power outage or as challenging as a storm like Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Irma, being prepared can help your college student remain safe and deal calmly with the situation, while helping other classmates to do the same.
- Check the district or college website to see if emergency plans are posted. If not, call administrators to request a copy of the plan and confirm that your student is registered with the emergency notification system.
- The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Program now features disaster training for students in on-campus housing.
- Ready-made disaster kits designed for students can be ordered from the American Red Cross at redcrossstore.org. Information on compiling your own disaster readiness kit is available on the web at www.fema.gov.
About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System
Safety is important for everyone all year round, not just while at school. A convenient and affordable way to make sure on-campus students or high-rise occupants are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.